Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Truth be Told

From: Walt Disney's Pinocchio
'Truth be told'  is a great phrase, and I love alliteration, but as Oscar Wilde so eloquently wrote in The Importance of Being Earnest, "The truth is rarely pure and never simple.

Poets, philosophers, statesmen and, well just about all of us, wrestle with the truth on so many levels. Here are a few of gems:
"There are no facts, only interpretations." - Friedrich Nietzsche
"If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things." Rene Descartes
"Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth." - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
"Seldom, very seldom, does complete truth belong to any human disclosure; seldom can it happen that something is not a little disguised or a little mistaken." -Jane Austen, Emma
 “There's a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure truth.” - Maya Angelou
My concern now, is that 'truth' is becoming ever-more illusive with advancing photo-shop technology and our modern vehicles of 'news resources' and communication. Mark Twain's statement, "A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes" is now somewhat prophetic.

Here are a few of the issues that teachers, students, adults and all news consumers must keep in mind:


Part of the problem is that as we constantly download news there is increasing pressure for the 'scoop', often resulting in  less-than-stringent fact verification before publication. Furthermore, sources often come from 'citizen reporters' directly or indirectly involved in the event.  They are usually biased, and don't need to address accountability or review standards.

After the Boston Marathon bombing, for example, CNN first reported that an arrest had been made.  This was then picked up by the Associated Press, Fox and the Boston Herald, among others, when no arrest was yet to be made. Reporting errors were also made in the early hours following the Sandy Hill massacre. Many news outlets, for example, reported the shooter as Ryan Lanza rather than Adam.

This may be understandable when trying to cover fast-breaking news, but these mistakes occur with slower-paced news as well and remain 'accessable' to anyone in the future 'researching' these events.

Other examples: ABCNews OnLine reported 2/23/13 that "Vatican Furious over 'False' News Reports. " In another example, Forbes.com  (4/23/2013) reported in "Stocks Plunge, Then Recover After Falser Report of White House Attack" about what happened after the Associated Press' Twitter account tweeted a fake report of an attack on the White House. After Rep. Giffords was shot, NPR, Reuters, Fox News, CBS, CNN, The New York Times' website, and Huffington Post sent out tweets and other reports declaring her dead.  AP was one of the only major news organizations that held back.  She is still and slowly recuperating today.

In one final example (and there are many, many more), The Huffington Post noted how CNN and Fox News:
"...were left with egg on their Faces...as they got the Supreme Court's ruling on President Obama's health care law wrong...
The trouble started...[when]Congressional correspondent Kate Boulduan read out part of the Court's ruling, which said that the individual mandate could not be upheld using the Commerce Clause. Disastrously, though, it failed to pick up the other part of the ruling, which said that it could be upheld as a tax.
 Granted, the reporters in the film clip below do try to hedge their statements, but once out, they were 'blamed' and ridiculed for false or premature reporting of the ruling which in fact, upheld Obama Care.

2. USE OF PHOTOGRAPHS IN THE NEWS THAT HAVE BEEN PHOTOSHOPPED (some with and some without the knowledge of those posting/using them

One recent example (blaze.com 4/18/2013 "New York Daily News Criticized for Doctoring Photo of Bombing Victim's Gruesome Leg Wound - Should They Be?) can be seen below where an original photo (left) taken by Boston Globe photographer John Tlumacki was deemed too graphic for cover publication by The Daily News. They decided to still use it, photo-shopping the victim's severely damaged leg.

B Image 3881 ‘Daily News’ Photoshops Boston Bombing Photos on Front Page (NSFW)
The original photo (left) by Boston Globe photographer John Tlumacki was photoshopped by The Daily News (right)

New York Daily News Criticized for Doctoring Graphic Image of Boston Bombing Victim Wound
Here is the origianl photo by John Tlumacki, Boston Globe via Boston Big Picture Blog
New York Daily News Criticized for Doctoring Graphic Image of Boston Bombing Victim Wound
Front page of the New York Daily News showing the edited photo. (Image via Charles Apple/Copydesk.org)
The Daily News was subsequently criticized by many who felt that IF The Daily News felt this image was too graphic for their readers, they should have simply chosen a different one.

Cnet.com has a gallery of 26 photo-shopped images that have been integrated into "the news." They note, for example, that "in the immediate aftermath of the death of Osama bin Laden...several fake photos of his body appeared online..."

A more troubling example, however, can be seen in numerous instances of doctored war images, many of which continue to come out from Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, and Hezbollah. While this doctoring is not new, it is becoming a mainstream issue due to availability, access, and photoshop technology. As these are doctored for political purposes to manipulate the opinions, ire and/or sympathies of viewers of all ages and are being picked up through news and social networks interchangeably, we have to be extremely careful when reading and evaluating 'the news.'

In August, 2006, for example, Liz Marlantes (abcnews.go.com) reported on "'Doctored' War Photos Ignite Controversy (8/8/2006, http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=2288892&page=1#.UaTBw-thKw8):
From: drezner.foreignpolicy.com
"...Adnan Hajj, the freelance photographer for Reuters...was fired... for doctoring two photographs from Lebanon...One was a picture of Beirut after an Israeli air strike on which Hajj imposed additional and darker plumes of smoke. The other showed an Israeli fighter jet dropping what appeared to be three flares, when the original image had just one...
It's also the story of Brian Walski, a Los Angeles Times photographer... fired in 2003 for merging two images of a British soldier and a crowd of Iraqis (in the altered image, the soldier appears to be pointing his gun at a man holding a child).
Photo manipulation has occurred since the days of the Civil War...But in recent years, media experts say they've seen an alarming rise in the frequency of doctored pictures making their way into the mainstream journalism.
...Experts say the trend is fueled by a range of factors. Growing pressure in newsrooms to compete with a growing array of media outlets...New and widely available Photoshop technology has also created...a slippery slope.
...When altered photographs are coming from a war zone, the sensitivities-- and the stakes-- are even higher.
...A similar problem may be looming with the growing use of 'citizen journalists.' As mainstream media organizations become increasingly willing to publish a cell phone photo or video taken by a random bystander...the opportunities for fraud are likely to multiply dramatically.

 On July 11, 2008, David Folkenflik (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=92454193) reported in "On the Smoky Trail of a Faked Missile Photo" that:
"...Earlier this week, the Iranians tested missiles..[intending]...to flex a little military muscle...Unfortunately for them, only three missiles made it off the ground. The fourth - despite photographic evidence...appears to have stayed put...

An image of four missiles being launched.

An image showing three missiles being launched.

One final example comes from last week's New York Times post "Israeli Report Casting Doubts on Shooting in Gaza  (5/19/2013)   http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/20/world/middleeast/israel-casts-new-doubt-on-muhammad-al-dura-episode.html?_r=0
France 2, via Agence France-Presse

Isabel Kershner reported that:
"The images seen around the world were shocking: a young boy being shot dead as he crouched behind his father at a dusty junction in Gaza in September 2000. But the facts behind the images have been disputed almost from the start ...the Israeli government asserted that there was no evidence for the original account ...that the boy was hit by Israeli bullets — and that it was even possible that neither the boy nor his father had been struck by any bullets at all.
The original television report — [was] filmed by France 2 by a Gaza correspondent, Talal Abu Rahma, and narrated by the station’s Jerusalem bureau chief, Charles Enderlin, who was not at the present at the scene....France 2, a public television channel, at the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada — had a powerful impact, galvanizing the uprising and fueling international criticism of Israel.
... The Israeli government review suggested, as other critics have, that the France 2 footage might have been staged. It noted anomalies like the apparent lack of blood in appropriate places at the scene, and said that raw footage from the seconds after the boy’s apparent death seem to show him raising his arm..."
Clearly the list goes on. Please go to this link for more on a taxonomy of fraud with a comprehensive overview of four types of photo fraud.

The issue is that with the pressure for continuous news streams, with the ever-available and easy-to-use photo shop technology, and with more "citizen reporting" we have to be both aware of the issues and risks of faulty, premature reporting and slanted reporting which is subjective and manipulative rather than objective and informative.


With news items available and retrievable for the unforeseen future, we have to train our kids and students to critically evaluate verbal and visual texts.

Solutions and strategies to battling "truth" in our social and news media:

 Thank you as always for your visit.

In the comments, please leave your opinions and suggestions on visual censorship, monitoring news sources,  how you navigate 'truth' and/or your favorite quotes on "truth."


  1. Can't comment enough on this. All I'll say is the stuff you mention tick me off greatly!

  2. Wow. This was a really great piece pointing out various flaws in journalism today. Thank you!

  3. I have seen this in the news media for some time. They just gotta tweak it to make it sound better than what it is, or to get what they want us to believe across.

    Royalegacy Reviews & More Wordless Wednesday

  4. Bad enough when you can believe what you read in the media. Now we have to be suspicious of images, too.

  5. Mark Twain said, "truth is the most valuable thing we have. Let us economize it". seems like we are taking him at his word.
    An Arkies Musings

  6. Deat Meryl, it is not easy to find a newspaper or magazine that is objective enough to be honest with the facts. There are a few papers in my country that are really trustworthy. I don't buy papers that belong to the socalled "yellow press".
    Thanks for sharing.
    Wil, ABCW Team.

  7. Oh yes with computer technology, I never know if what I'm looking at is real or Fabricated.

    Take the Amanda Knox case - She was tried in Italy. What did they show in the media? Her kissing her boyfriend on a loop. They made us think she was much more into him than her friend being murdered. When in fact the kiss was a few seconds, and then she stared off into lost space with a worried look.

    I never know what to believe half the time.

  8. Isn't it sad that the original term "you can't believe everything you read" now has to be expanded to "you can't believe everything you see"? Crazy.

    The Month of May Brought Lots of Smiles – with More to Come in a 10 Things to Smile about RTT Rebel kinda way

  9. I ditto Stacy's comment above. But seriously, I just can't deal with some of the tragedy we see on TV these days. I have to turn the TV off or to another channel. Newtown was an example for me being so sickened I actually started to cry when I heard the news on the radio. I could not look at the TV coverage! But I did not realize that journalists "treat" photos to make them fit to look at.

    abcw team

  10. One of the scary things I find is some of our young people think it's true if they see it on the net!! How sad is that. Being dramatic, and quite the extrovert, I battle with "exaggeration" on a daily basis...love to embellish a story...and basically that's telling a lie too. Oh dear.. I've just confessed!!

  11. Interesting article. There is a lot of doctoring of photos going on, especially in the middle east. The doctoring is not just with photos either. It's a media war full of lies constantly slanted against Israel. Yes, I've spoken to people who are there.


  12. My trust in the media right now is at an all time low. They just do not seem capable of putting together stories that are not spun.

  13. 24 hour news means all those minutes have to be filled with both lies and truth,. I heard about a research report that found that the more news watched creates greater anxiety and a decline in mental health. I turn off TV news, it has become too graphic, more about the picture than the news. I find the radio has a much more measured and analytical approach, but then again not all stations.
    Joy - ABC Team

  14. It's so scary these days with everything being altered or hidden from what the truth is. You almost don't know what to believe or not believe anymore.

  15. So true, so true. It is really hard to believe anything in print, tv or the internet.
    It's like the commercial that depicts a woman meeting her "French" blind date she met through the internet and her talking about proof positive because she read it on the internet.'
    Great post Meryl.
    We sure need to be wise and discerning.

  16. Wow, this was very eye opening to read. I felt it was a great post and I plan to share it with some friends. Thank you!